Category Archive: Featured Blog

  1. As Notre Dame Burned, What Exactly Were We Mourning?

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    John Stonestreet – I’ve learned a lot from Glenn Sunshine, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University. Glenn not only gets history, he also really gets worldview and, even better, how worldview and history are related.

    On Monday night, as I was trying to make sense of the tragedy of the burning of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, I learned again from Dr. Sunshine. Part of my sadness was that I’ve never visited this wonder of the world, where Henry VI, King of England, was also crowned King of France in 1431, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in 1804, and Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909. But there was more to my sadness, and the sadness of so many who, like me, were mourning the potential loss of a place they’ve never seen.

    Glenn’s comments, posted on Facebook, are worth quoting:

    I am a historian. I revere the past. Artefacts that allow us to touch the centuries touch a deep place in my heart. Having lived in Paris, I feel a personal connection to Notre Dame: Not only is it an 850-year-old artifact full of beauty but it is also the site of some very happy memories for me with students and especially with my family. My wife nursed our firstborn in Notre Dame. I have been in shock and mourning all day over the fire. And yet … I have also been thinking about C.S. Lewis’s words from “The Weight of Glory:” “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.” My reason tells me he is right, but my emotions don’t agree. To take it a step further, if the thing that gives human life value is the Image of God, if we are really the crown of God’s creation, isn’t human life more important than the ancient artefacts that I revere? Why then do I get more upset at the loss of things whose longevity is “to ours as the life of a gnat” than I am at the dehumanization of people made in God’s image, at abuse and murder? As horrified as I am by those things, why do I feel the loss of ancient artefacts more? I don’t have a good answer, and I’m not looking for one, but pondering the significance of the fire at Notre Dame has gotten me thinking about these questions.

    I think we do well to ponder these questions. I remember, after a fire ravaged the signature building of a college where I once worked, hearing the wise words of our President Bill Brown: “We didn’t lose anything important.” He meant, of course, no human lives were lost. Bill went on to lead an incredible recovery and renovation project, and the college went on.

    I think Bill’s words were spot on in the context of that fire, but I also sense with Glenn Sunshine that, though the loss of lives would have been infinitely more tragic, we rightly mourn what we witnessed this week in Paris.

    We rightly mourn the loss of that kind of beauty. Though, as I understand, many of the priceless works of art housed in Notre Dame are safe, many others are lost. Of course, God, in His grace, hasn’t ceased to endow His image bearers with creativity and skill. Thankfully, we can expect others to come along whom He has called to communicate truth and goodness with beauty.

    But we must also know that not every culture is capable of producing art that captures the imagination in that kind of transcendent way. Today, our collective imaginations are far too often captive to things temporal, meaningless, and even obscene. That says a lot about the kind of culture we’ve created.

    We also rightly mourn the loss of history, especially in this age of what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” Cultural memory is lost at our own peril and, whenever it is, humans are tempted by a moral Darwinism, confident that our new technologies, leisure, and distractions will deliver the good life. They will not.

    Finally, many of us mourn, rightly, the loss of faith and transcendence this fire seems to represent. Over a century ago, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed cathedrals to be nothing more than the sepulchers of God. Of course, God is not dead in any ontological sense, but He is long forgotten in so many places where people were once inspired to build edifices for His worship, places like Notre Dame.

    So as we mourn, let’s pray that God, in His grace, would haunt us with these questions, and through them would bring revival, renewal, and even new beauty from the ashes of Notre Dame.

  2. Genocide In Nigeria – Christians Die, Media Mum

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    John Stonestreet –

    Over the past week, Senior Colson Fellow Glenn Sunshine has taken to Facebook to do something that much of the mainstream media—to its discredit—has neglected to do: alerting people to what is happening to Christians in places like Nigeria.

    The population of Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. That religious split largely follows geographic lines: The northern part of the country is predominantly Muslim, the eastern and southern parts of the country heavily Christian.

    The “Middle Belt” is, as you probably guessed, ethnically and religiously diverse. In this part of the country, Christians have been on the receiving end of a campaign that Open Doors calls “religious cleansing,” that is, an attempt “to eradicate Christianity” from the region.

    One of the most notorious Islamist groups in the world, Boko Haram, is responsible for killing thousands of Christians and displacing countless more in northern Nigeria. But Boko Haram isn’t the only group targeting Christians there.

    In late June, Christian leaders claimed that “over 6,000 persons—mostly children, women and the aged—have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen.” The Fulani are an ethnic group that are overwhelmingly Muslim, and for the record, their raids are not always at night.

    In their statement, Nigerian Christian leaders also complained about the “continuous abduction of under-aged Christian girls by Muslim youths…” These girls “are forcefully converted to Islam and taken in for marriage without the consent of their parents.”

    While Open Doors calls what is happening in the Middle Belt “religious cleansing,” Nigerian Christian leaders have called it genocide, and not without good reason. Under the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, genocide consists of action intended to destroy in whole or in part, “a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” The actions can include “killing members of the group,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” among other things.

    All three of these things are happening in Nigeria right now.

    Where is the Nigerian government in all of this? At best, nowhere to be found. Officials are downplaying, if not outright denying, any religious dimension of what’s happening. Instead, they’re calling this a conflict over resources, in this case, over land. This denial conveniently glosses over the one-sided nature of the violence in the region: The Fulani and Boko Haram are the hammers and the Christians are the nails.

    Since I told you about this campaign of extermination last summer, the violence against Christians has continued unabated. Since February alone nearly 300 Christians have been killed and thousands more displaced.

    Yet, the mainstream media here in the States remains mum. As tempting as it is to speculate why we aren’t hearing about it, that won’t do our Nigerian brethren a bit of good. It won’t put pressure on the Nigerian government to do its basic duty and protect all of its citizens.

    What will help is becoming knowledgeable about what is happening to Christians in Nigeria and around the word. We are living in a new age of religious persecution and even martyrdom. This kind of intentional and thoughtful engagement—along with, of course, our most important efforts of consistent and concerted prayer—is our brethren’s best chance at relief. It’s a task we all must embrace.

  3. Equipping Marketplace Ambassadors in Africa

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    Zimbabwe, Burundi, Congo DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania – what do these countries have in common? In recent months almost 100 CBMC Leaders were trained in the basics of CBMC: Evangelism, Discipleship, Coaching and helping others to hear their calling in the marketplace for ministry. Paul Johnson and Patrick O’Neal as well as Jim Firnstahl joined Alex Chisanga, CBMC Africa Director, Masimba Chimwara and other leaders for times of teaching and coaching. For full stories and updates on how God is moving in the various CBMC regions in Africa, please click the link below.

    3 New CBMC Africa Newsletter

  4. CBMC in the Middle East

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    God’s Hand is moving in the Middle East–specifically in Dubai, UAE. Recently Jim had the opportunity to meet with Christian Business and Professionals there regarding the opportunity of establishing CBMC in this marketplace country. During the CBMC event held there recently, Jim had the privilege of praying with three people who chose to follow Jesus. Please pray for these bold and courageous men and women as they establish teams and begin to look for opportunities for evangelism in their spheres of influence. We will keep you up to date as we are able.

  5. CBMC South Africa

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    Following the CBMC National Convention in Zimbabwe, Jim traveled to South Africa (Johannesburg and Cape Town). During his time in Johannesburg, he shared with many CBMC Teams for a time of encouragement and training. He also had an opportunity to share during an outreach event of 40 participants with three decisions for Christ. We praise the Lord for His work through CBMC.
    Before leaving South Africa, Jim traveled to Cape Town to meet with Leaders and Teams there. Please continue to pray for these teams and leaders – their heart’s desire is to reach the whole community of Cape Town (black and white) as well as develop a strategy for Young Professionals.

    With Global Leadership Team Member, Frik Janse van Rensburg

    Paul Johnson and Cape Town Team Leaders

    Wellington Teams

    Outreach Event

  6. 1st National CBMC Convention: Harare, Zimbabwe

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    CBMC Zimbabwe started in 2007 with the support and encouragement of CBMCers from South Africa. Today, they have three teams with 12 “Pauls” and 20 “Timothys.” Several weeks ago Jim traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe for the 1st CBMC National Convention.  The time of CBMC Training, worship, prayer and fellowship was an encouragement to the teams. Forty men and women were able to attend — with one new person making a commitment to follow Jesus. God is good!  It is a blessing for us to be a part of His work for the Kingdom. Please continue to pray for these brothers and sisters that they would be bold for Christ in a country that sees turmoil both politically and economically. A few photos from our time together:

    Masimba and Doreen Chimwara, Convention Hosts

    Paul Johnson and Masimba Chimwara

    Alex Chisanga, Africa Director speaking

    CBMC Training

  7. God Is Working In Japan

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    Recently Jim and Emily Firnstahl traveled to Japan (specifically Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo) to meet and encourage the CBMC Teams in each city. While there Jim spoke to 5 groups, including an large outreach event in Tokyo with our new CBMC Japan Chairman, Aoki. God blessed and two people proclaimed faith in Christ during this event. This is exciting as Japan’s population is less than 1% Christian. Ten people joined CBMC and doubled the number of teams in Tokyo!  We praise the Lord for His faithfulness in calling people to Him.

    Please pray for the CBMC Teams in Japan — as they plan for the Japan National Prayer Meeting Events in 2019. They are hoping to make this time (June 11-12, 2019) an opportunity for outreach and CBMC Training. More details will follow in the coming months.  A few photos from the recent events/meetings:

    Lunch with CBMC Members

    Tokyo Church Group

    CBMC Japan Advisory Board

    Jim sharing CBMC Vision and Mission

  8. Quarterly Report on CBMC Africa

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    Malawi Vision Casting and Connect3Training – After earlier attempt to establish CBMC in Malawi, CBMC Africa once again went to Malawi for the country’s vision cast which took place in Zomba town on the 28th April 2018. We had 30 signed up for CBMC.

    CBMC AFRICA NEWSLETTER


    Download the PDF Newsletter 

     

     

     

  9. Generation Z, Justice, and the Gospel: A Call for Balance

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    Eric Metaxas – Many members of Generation Z are choosing justice over the gospel, but they don’t have to. They can choose both.

    Generation Z—roughly those young people born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s—is known for a lot of things: its technological savvy, its commitment to social justice, its loneliness, its online connectedness, and its seemingly endless quest for “authenticity.” One thing it’s not as known for is a commitment to gospel proclamation and traditional evangelical doctrines.

    Writing about these “young evangelicals who have ‘expanded their mission’ to include social justice along with evangelism,” pastor and author Tim Keller says, “Many of them have not only turned away from older forms of ministry, but also from traditional evangelical doctrines of Jesus’s substitutionary atonement and of justification by faith alone, which are seen as too ‘individualistic.’”

    And for all the good they’re doing—and they are—Generation Z Christians have become unbalanced. That’s not old fogeys like me or Tim Keller talking; it’s coming from one of their own: Jaquelle Crowe, the author of “This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years.”

    Writing for The Gospel Coalition, Crowe says, “The fundamental problem is that we’ve created a false dichotomy. When you pit justice and gospel against each other, you miss the point of the Bible and devalue God’s heart for both. Justice fits squarely in the framework of biblical Christianity. It flows fiercely out of the gospel as a practical implication of loving God.”

    John Stonestreet, my colleague, has talked a lot about truth and love not being in opposition. And he’s exactly right. As the letter of James reminds us, what good is it to say, “Stay warm,” without giving someone a blanket? That is how we can begin bringing balance back to the gospel.

    Pointing to the shining examples of William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Crowe says we need a biblical balance not of justice or the gospel, but of justice and the gospel. But Crowe goes a step farther. She says we need to make the gospel our priority, because only a right understanding of the human predicament before heaven will power our passion for justice on earth.

    “If we want to live out justice the way God commands and celebrates,” Crowe says, “we must prioritize the gospel. If we truly want to see human flourishing and reduce global suffering, we need to deal with the biggest problem humanity faces: sin and death.” She’s right, and because you’ve heard plenty from me about Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce, let me point out another example.

    William Carey was an 18th-century cobbler-turned-minister who heard God’s call to go to India and became known as the “father of modern missions.” Urging his fellow Presbyterians to care about the lost, Carey said, “Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.”

    But Carey’s concern for the lost didn’t stop with their souls—far from it! Besides translating the Bible into many Indian languages, Carey was instrumental in banning the Hindu practices of sati—which is widow-burning—along with infanticide and assisted suicide. He lived out a personal philosophy that any Christian can get behind: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God!”

    Jaquelle Crowe would agree, saying, “We need justice operated out of gospel love,” adding, “That’s what Jesus did. He drew water for the thirsty and told them about the Living Water that could eternally satisfy. He served food to the hungry and preached about the Bread of Life.”

    Thank God for Generation Z Christians who are passionate about justice, and for Jaquelle Crowe, a young woman who knows that justice and the gospel go together and who is bold enough to call her generation—Generation Z—to own all of the gospel.